A Simple Gift: Questions & Curiosity in Nature

Whenever I venture out into nature I always proceed from a place of playful curiosity which often means I return home with more than a few fun questions on my mind.

One memorable outdoor adventure a few years ago had me paired with an equally inquisitive 9 year old who has always been great company when exploring our shared neck-of-the-woods.

As we traveled some of our favorite community pathways we came upon a large tree that had come down in a recent storm. We had fun balancing on top of it and traversing the full length of it up and down and all the while these questions began to bubble to the surface :

Is this a downed tree or is this a log?

What is the difference between a log and just a tree that has fallen?

How long does it have to be down to be called a log?

Is there really a difference?

The questions do not seem to be of much consequence in regards to whether we answered them or not however the fact that they did lead to some lively and engaging conversations was quite the simple and unexpected gift.

On our return trip back through our intentional farming community we asked folks what they thought and surveyed our family members too.

The best part was hearing each person’s reasoning in their answer. Most folks did not pick up their electronic gadget to use a search engine to find * the answer *. Instead they spoke from their life experiences. It was a wonderful thing.

I hope these questions inspire and encourage you and yours to get outdoors and be inquisitive and to share the experience with family and friends.

Curiosity, questioning, and P.L.A.Y. all go hand-in-hand . . . just like walking in the woods with your favorite kiddo!

Sending smiles to help light the way,

Karen & her Curious Capkin!

A Simple Gift: Babbling Brook


Passing forward this Simple Gift to inspire and encourage everyone on their

naturally curious and creative P.L.A.Y. journey. ­čÖé


Some of the simplest P.L.A.Y. gifts come in the form of time spent in nature.

A favorite spot when our kiddos had just reached double digits was a small pooling area that was a part of a babbling brook in our intentional farming community.

In late spring and throughout the summer we would visit this special spot to wade in and build dams and splash about.

There were plenty of opportunities to simply P.L.A.Y.

Building a dam meant figuring out how to put the rock puzzle pieces together, determining the integrity of the structure, watching the water level rise, and making adjustments as parts let go. It required weight lifting and knowing your own strength or considering the use of leverage.

A simple walking stick was used to discover the depth of the water before wading in to darker areas or to find the strength of the water flow. It could help leverage rocks for the dam or if broken be used in the making of the dam.

And when we’d return on another day these┬áP.L.A.Y. moments would repeat themselves and be expanded upon again and again. ­čÖé

Years later this “smiling pool” at the brook now has a wonderful footbridge to cross over welcoming everyone to begin an adventure in the surrounding field, forest, ridge and river and to take some time out to simply P.L.A.Y.

Time to find your nook in nature, at the brook or beyond!

Sending Smiles,

Karen ;0)

Bonus Related Simple Gifts:

The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad (Annotated): A P.L.A.Y. Nature Activity Story Book by Karen L. Willard and others found HERE.

My love of children’s literature and being out in nature all came creatively together when I chanced upon the 100+ year old Thornton Burgess books with so many of his stories written in New England nature settings. The animal characters have their adventures throughout the Green Forest in plenty of familiar places like: Peter Rabbit with his home in the Old Briar-patch, Jenny Wren building a nest in the Old Orchard, and Old Mr. Toad visiting the Smiling Pool created by the nearby Laughing Brook. These nature scenes are found throughout the area I live in too and I visit these magical peaceful places daily to immerse in a “sense of wonder” and to make creative connections.

If you’d like to visit spaces like these in nature I’ve got great news, simply follow these two steps:

  1. Step out your door and get to know your surrounding nature spots be it in your neighborhood, local community, bordering towns, or beyond. There are so many hidden wonders to explore and adventures to be had throughout the seasons by setting aside time to connect with nature and local communities.
  2. I have started re-writing many books in the Thornton Burgess nature series. I have updated the stories for the 21st century family by keeping the same old nature settings and story line and giving the characters an opportunity to model compassionate communication and loving kindness.  I have also provided bonus materials to interact with the book such as nature photos taken here in New England, spaces for the reader to illustrate each chapter as they creatively see it, and curious question prompts for conversations with friends and family, and added resource suggestions to continue the adventure. Try a copy or gift it to a kiddo in your life or neighborhood, donate a copy to your local library or school, all simply by clicking on this link HERE. Thanks!